|8/28/2013 2:00:00 PM|
Divisions Remain Over Waldoboro Budget Cuts
By Dominik LobkowiczA hearing on the warrant for Waldoboro's Sept. 10 special town meeting on Aug. 27 focused on how the town should accommodate a $106,000 hit to state revenue sharing, but both the board of selectmen and the public were divided on from where the cuts should come.
Article 4 on the warrant includes reducing the amount of Intergovernmental Revenues in the town budget by $106,000 to 234,463, reducing the public works department budget approved at town meeting in June by $35,000 to $669,198, reducing the failed police department budget by $60,000 to $581,585, using $8290 from the town's un-designated fund balance to reduce the tax rate, and reducing a portion of the failed finance and customer service department budget by $2710 to $176,576.
A portion of the failed finance and customer service department article was separated out for the special town meeting: a separate warrant article asks if the town shall raise and appropriate $69,874 for the office of the town clerk.
The $2710 reduction to the remaining portion of the finance and customer service budget is a savings in benefits costs from the retirement and rehiring of finance director Eileen Dondlinger.
In the discussion on Article 4, resident Robert Butler said the select board was put into a difficult position in deciding where to make cuts, but cuts to essential services should have been avoided.
The $60,000 reduction to the police department and subsequent loss of a police officer position will mean the department will not have coverage during certain times of the week, and the cut of a position from public works will affect their ability to complete certain projects and to cover sick leave and vacations, he said.
The selectmen could have considered making nearly $17,000 in social services donations voluntary instead of obligatory, taken a hard look at the town's medical insurance, or considered that the new planning and development director is starting nearly two months into the year, Butler said.
"I urge the rejection of that article," he said.
Selectman Ron Miller and Waldoboro Police Chief Bill Lambombarde were back and forth on the contents of an article related to calculating proper police staffing levels.
Miller said the article claimed methods used to calculate Waldoboro Police Department's staffing are outdated; Labombarde contended if the article's recommendations are followed, Waldoboro should actually have 11 officers.
The additional data the article recommended be used to calculate staffing levels has been used, Labombarde said.
"It would be nice to have 11 police officers," said Selectman Chair Craig Cooley. "Camden has 11 police officers. We can't afford 11 police officers in my mind."
Cooley defended the decision to cut, saying the economy has changed since 2008 when the last staffing study for the police department was done.
"It's not easy to cut the police department; public works ... anyone," he said.
Former Police Chief Leroy Jones opposed the cut to the police department.
"Why do we have eight police officers? Because we need them," Jones said. "Statistics aren't everything; it's what's happening out there," he said.
Budget committee member John Higgins supported the cuts, since the town already pays for the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office to provide police coverage 24 hours a day.
Resident Scott Murray urged the selectmen use $40,000 Spear had once proposed, to save the public works position and reduce the cut to the police department.
Spear said at the board's July 18 meeting there was at least $40,000 in an un-expended fund balance available beyond the amount being set aside annually to increase the balance.
"We can't let the pendulum go too far and let crime exceed what we can control," Murray said.
Selectman James Bodman agreed the $40,000 should be used in this situation, describing it as "an emergency."
"We needed to trim the budget, we didn't need to hack the budget, which is what this does right here," Bodman said.
Selectman Carl Cunningham cautioned against using the $40,000. "Just because we have $40,000 this year doesn't mean we'll have $40,000 next year," he said.
Resident Ellie Simons suggested the selectmen do an across the board cut of $106,000 instead of disproportionately putting the cuts onto the police and public works.
"We know we need to cut money, we definitely all know that," Simons said.
Jones agreed with Simons' suggestion. "Then nobody gets hurt to any great extent," he said.
Public Works Director John Daigle questioned why the finance and customer service budget was not cut when it failed, and yet public works is being considered for cuts when that budget passed.
Miller said he believes the finance and customer service budget was too large when lumped together with the Office of the Town Clerk. Split out, he feels the two sections will pass.
Daigle requested the public works budget be split in a similar fashion in the future into summer and winter budgets, as it once was years ago.
The other articles on the warrant received little discussion beyond Spear's explanations.
Article 2 would authorize the selectmen to expend up to 6/12 of the previous year's appropriation for any failed budgets, allowing the departments to continue operating until Dec. 31, Spear said.
Article 5 would release the Lincoln County Fish and Game Association from conditions placed on an April 17, 1948 deed which conveyed the property at 196 Cross St., from the town to the association.
The condition prohibits "major alterations" to the building on the premises and stipulates the property should be returned to the town if needed for school purposes, according to the warrant.
The association is applying for a grant to rehabilitate the building and the grant will not be approved if the association does not have an unencumbered title, Spear said.
"The building desperately needs to be renovated," said Cooley.
Article 6 would designate a number of properties around Waldoboro, such as the Waldoboro Recreation Complex, the Waldoboro Public Library, Pine Street Landing, among others as "drug free safe zones."
Anyone arrested for drug offenses within those zones would face harsher penalties if convicted, according to Spear.
Polls for voting on the special town meeting warrant articles will open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Waldoboro Municipal Building and will close at 8 p.m.
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